Cognitive behavioural therapy during COVID-19: Lancet study shows treatment method may be just as effective electronically
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is considered to be one of the most effective ways to treat mental health issues in India.
Whether it’s due to the everyday stresses of modern life, individual traumas or the global healthcare crisis due to the COVID-19 pandemic, anxiety and depression have emerged as major concerns for people all over the world in recent times. Even before the pandemic hit, mental health issues were a cause of concern in India. According to the Indian National Mental Health Survey of 2015-2016, nearly 15% of Indians require active intervention to cope with mental health issues.
Cognitive behavioural therapy (CBT) is considered to be one of the most effective ways to treat mental health issues in India and the world. For those who might not know, CBT is a type of talk therapy which helps you manage your problems by figuring out ways to change your behaviour and the thoughts behind them. But with social distancing and extended/continuing lockdowns, CBT can be difficult to provide by therapists in the traditional face-to-face manner - which in turn has called for greater resources being developed for electronically-delivered CBT, or eCBT. But is eCBT just as effective as traditional CBT?
How does CBT improve mental health?
CBT, in its inception, was known as just cognitive therapy (CT) and was pioneered by Dr Aaron T Beck in the 1960s. Beck was a psychiatrist at the University of Pennsylvania and practiced psychoanalytic psychotherapy to treat patients of depression. During his research and practice, he discovered that patients with depressive disorders have three basic and automatic cognitions or thoughts: they had negative ideas about themselves, the world around them, and the future.
Beck then helped patients identify and evaluate these automatic cognitions, which in turn helped them think more realistically, feel better emotionally and behave with better functionality. CT proved to be effective in bringing long-lasting changes when patients were able to change these automatic cognitions in the long run through extended therapy. Over the following five decades, CT evolved into CBT and was adopted by mental health practitioners from across the world.
In a chapter of the 2012 book, CBT in Non-Western Cultures, Dr Nimisha Kumar and Parul Gupta (who’re both members of the Indian Association for Cognitive Behaviour Therapy) reveal that although Indian mental health practitioners rarely adopt just “a single systematised form of psychotherapy”, CBT has proved to be an effective form of treatment for the Indian populace because of its focused nature that directs patients towards actionable changes they can make immediately to improve their psychological and physical health status.
How to access CBT electronically?
So, CBT definitely has immense benefits, especially in the Indian scenario. But is eCBT equally effective? A recent study in The Lancet insists that eCBT is at least as effective as face-to-face CBT, and given the current reliability and accessibility of technology, eCBT facilities should be maximised and made available to both patients and therapists who need it.
If you have access to the internet, you could reach out to a trained mental health expert via hospital eConsultation services, health applications on your phone and even call up emergency hotlines for help. Technology and its easy access have made CBT, one of the most effective treatments for mental health issues, available at your fingertips. The fact that there is somebody at the other end of a line to provide you with appropriate mental healthcare should encourage you to reach out to eCBT services if you or a loved one is in need.
For more information, read our article on Depression: Causes, symptoms, treatment and prevention.
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